Last August, my husband and I planned a dreamboat vacation to London, Barcelona and Marjorca. You know how when you buy a new car, suddenly everyone in the world is driving that car, everywhere you turn, it’s all you can see? Same with this vacation. As soon as I booked the flights, everyone I know was going or had recently been to Barcelona. And, here I thought I was being original.
My friends were right—the jamón imbérico was “to die,” the tomato bread is an affair I will never get over and the people all looked like models minus the LA “tude.” Our hotel, the Murmuri, was everything I had hoped—boutique and luxurious and perfectly located. But, as we re-tell the story, the pièce de résistance, among all things was a tour. Shocking, as I hate tours. Not this one.
I found the private tour company Hi, This is Barcelona in the comments of the travel section of the New York Times online. I was concerned about my flagging relationship with the Spanish language and thought the only way to avoid the utter humiliation of a tour bus, was a one-on-one experience. Hi, This is Barcelona was started by a Californian who moved to Barcelona over a decade ago and offers a completely customizable experience for those looking for a hands-on, throw away the guide book intimacy with this city. I debated on a tapas tour, but confident in my ability to choose great restaurants (even abroad), I looked for something outside my area of expertise, and thus booked the “Undiscovered Corners of the Barrio Gotico” (the Gothic Quarter). If you happened to have an American friend who had lived in Barcelona for years, knew the history inside and out, happily answered all of your questions with patience and humor, then took you to tapas after (“where the locals go”) not because you paid for it, but because she likes you–THIS was that experience and our “friend” was named Nancy. We wondered down the cobblestone streets, inside the La Boqueria Market, feasting our eyes on the most incredible produce I’ve ever seen and stopping for a glass of wine in between history lessons and tapas. €209 got us four hours of the best time we spent in Barcelona.
And, though they couldn’t pull off the impossible—dinner reservations at Tickets, Ferran Adria’s latest and greatest, they did book us a table at a hidden and quaint “hole in the wall gem” called Montiel in the Born neighborhood. ¡Salud!